Unfortunately, the world has been literally plagued. We all know by now about the dreadful Covid-19 virus and to make matters worse, some parts of the world are entering into the winter wonderland phase and we all know what the brings with it. Flu season!
With the change in the season also comes flu concerns. With the already troubling Coronavirus pandemic compounded with flu season, it has me turning towards my herbal cabinet for some preventative measures.
So, what CAN we as witches do to help prevent illness from settling in or even shortening the length of time of those who are currently already sick?
Let us turn to our inner herbalist and head to the kitchen and dig out our cauldrons!
This may seem like common sense but let us start with the mundane by implementing a simple hand hygiene regime. This is probably the easiest thing we can do to help the spread of any virus or bacteria.
Good old-fashioned soap and water are sufficient methods of lessening the spread of germs. No need to sanitizer your hands all the time, that should only be used as a backup method and last resort. When you use an overabundance of hand sanitizers you are wiping out the natural flora, also known as GOOD bacteria! WE NEED the GOOD bacteria! Alcohol deprives the skin of its natural oils and water which can dry out the skin and in turn interrupts the skin's natural protective barrier, increasing the risk of bacteria and viruses entering our system.
Now let’s turn towards the herbalist side! There are many powerful ‘magickal’ ingredients right in your very own kitchen that you can use to conquer cough; cold and flu season and they are affordable and easily obtainable.
Elderberry, Echinacea, Parsley, Thyme, Rosemary, Sage, Mint, Ginger, Garlic, Lemon, Hibiscus, and Honey; just to name a few!
Elderberry, Sambucus Nigra, is probably the most popular and well known one to use to fight against sickness. This is the fruit of the black elder tree which is native to North America, Europe, and Western Asia. Elderberry contains a large amount of vitamin C and may reduce the intensity of cold and flu duration by 1/2 to 1/3. However, there is a continuing debate about the use of Elderberry with Covid-19. They are warning people that have COVID-19, of something called “cytokine storms”, it is rare, but a deadly possibility with this virus and it is recommended to NOT use Elderberry with this particular strain of Covid-19. And of course, always seek medical advice from your PCP before using any natural remedies.
Honey is another fabulous immune system builder! It has antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial and anti-tumor properties! Honey is considered a powerhouse antioxidant, which is amazingly effective for removal of free radicals from the body. Honey can also soothe sore and irritated throats. In case you didn't know, honey is not recommended for use in children under one year of age. Honey contains C. botulinum bacteria, which can produce a toxin in a baby's large intestine, leading to a rare but serious illness known as "infant botulism."
Garlic contains antiseptic and immunity boosting compounds. Garlic can also help to open clogged sinuses. Garlic can be crushed, sliced, or chewed – these actions produce allicin, which is what gives garlic its immune-boosting power!
Ginger can soothe a scratchy throat, but it has a chemical called sesquiterpenes that target rhinoviruses, this is the most common family of cold viruses. Ginger is a natural pain and fever reducer too!
Thyme is an excellent herb for supporting the immune system, both before and during illness. It stimulates the thymus gland, which that gland is responsible for regulating the immune system! Thyme is also a great expectorant and antimicrobial herb for the lungs.
Rosemary is a great source of vitamins A, C and manganese. (Manganese is a mineral that is found in several foods including nuts, legumes, seeds, tea, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables.) Rosemary also contains antioxidants that protect against cell damage and boosts the immune system.
Mint is another great herb for boosting immune health. It’s packed with vitamins A and C and has antioxidants. Antioxidants reduce stress and protect damage to cells caused by free radicals, in other words, this plant is really healthy for your body! It can also help open up nasal passages! The menthol in peppermint works as a decongestant, it aids in shrinking swollen membranes within the nose making it easier to breathe.
Parsley – either flat or curly are loaded with vitamins A, C and K. It is also great to use as an anti-inflammatory.
Sage can help sooth sore throat and boost immune response. It has anti-inflammatory properties so sage tea would help reduce swelling and irritation of a sore throat. In fact, research shows that a sage and echinacea spray was as effective at reducing pain as lidocaine — a common sore throat medication. Another benefit of the beautiful sage plant; Drinking herbal sage tea or simply inhaling the scent of sage oil can help to reduce stress and improve relaxation.
Lemons are high in vitamin c and a natural antioxidant which enhances the immune system. They also have antiviral and antibacterial properties. They can also alleviate nausea.
Hibiscus has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, astringent, and diuretic properties. It has high levels of vitamin c, minerals, soluble fiber, and it’s packed with antioxidants which can make hibiscus tea on of the most powerful and healthful beverages on earth. It can also have benefits for the kidneys, liver, and heart. Some precautions come with the use of hibiscus though, if you experience heartburn often or have GERD, hibiscus can aggravate these conditions. Hibiscus has also been shown to increase urinary excretion of acetaminophen (commonly known as Tylenol) As a precaution it is recommended to wait three hours after taking Tylenol before ingesting hibiscus.
And last, but certainly not least, we have echinacea. Echinacea is packed with antioxidants which may help defend your body against oxidative stressors. A review of 14 studies found that taking echinacea mat lower the risk of developing colds by more than 50% and shorten the duration of colds by one and a half days. A bonus with this beautiful herb, research has discovered that echinacea plants contain compounds that may reduce feelings of anxiety.
Heed my warnings!: Statements throughout this publication have not been evaluated by the FDA. These suggestions are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult your primary care physician before adding herbal remedies to your health and wellness regimen. There could be contraindications with certain types of medications and there could be adverse effects if you are pregnant or nursing. Also use caution with animals while conjuring up herbal remedies.
Now, let us get to our cauldron and brew up a much-needed item utilizing some of these immunity power-packed ingredients mentioned above.
Fire-Cider Witches Brew
Fire cider is a tangy, sweet vinegar infused with superfoods. A popular herbal folk remedy, it is used as an anti-inflammatory and digestion-stimulating tonic, and to boost natural immunity.
It is recommended to take 1 to 2 tablespoons at the first sign of cold and then repeat every 4 hours until symptoms subside. Some people begin to take this prior to flu season as a preventative.
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh ginger
1/2 cup peeled, diced fresh horseradish
1 head garlic, cloves smashed and peeled
3 sprigs rosemary
2 jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 cinnamon sticks
1/3 cup onion, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 lemon, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 orange, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 – 2.5 cups raw, unfiltered organic apple-cider vinegar
1/2 cup honey, preferably raw and unfiltered
Place ginger and horseradish in the bottom of a 1-quart mason jar or something similar. Make sure it’s a resealable glass container.
Add garlic, rosemary, jalapeno, peppercorns, cinnamon, and onion; then add lemon and orange pieces, pressing down to firmly pack all the ingredients in.
Next add vinegar, adding more as necessary to ensure that all the ingredients are fully submerged and that the jar is filled.
Seal jar (if using a metal lid, place a piece of parchment between the jar and lid. This will aid in the prevention of a corrosive reaction with the vinegar).
Store in a cool, dark place, shaking for a few seconds every day for at least 3 weeks and for as long as 6 weeks.
Strain through a cheesecloth or a fine-mesh sieve; discard solids. Stir in the honey.
Store in a sealed container in refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Fire cider was invented by Herbalist, Rosemary Gladstar in the 1970s.
Stay safe everyone and until next time, Live, Love, and Magick!
American Herbal Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook, 2nd ed. (CRC Press; 2013).